Despite the target of opponents, Lovely continues to produce
Published 6:37 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023
By Jim Walker
SOUTH POINT — It seems only appropriate that Caleb Lovely wears the number “0” on his jersey. It’s the closet thing to a bull’s-eye he’s allowed to wear.
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The South Point Pointers’ 6-foot-3 junior guard has been a target of opposing defenses for the past two seasons but even more this year as the offensive leader of the team with a 22.7 point scoring average.
But the only target Lovely sees is the basket as he reached a milestone recently with career point 1,000.
“It’s just something that came. It’s good to get it, but it gets harder and harder to (score points) when you see teams that prepare for you. But when you get your teammates involved it’s hard to key on one person the whole time,” said Lovely.
While opposing teams have focused on Lovely, he has been able to meet the challenge game in and game out. The key for him is not to try and do too much and to utilize his teammates.
“There’s been a lot of box-and-ones. People sending help on ball screens and they’re trapping it,” said Lovely. “Really, it’s just when you’re getting teammates open and they’re hitting shots, too, it’s hard to key on one player. You still have to watch out for everybody else.”
The point total is only going up. He currently has 363 points and counting. With another year of eligibility, Lovely has a chance to eclipse the school’s all-time scoring record.
“I don’t like to think about it. It’s just something that’s going to happen if it happens,” said Lovely.
The scoring records may be nice for fans to talk about, but Lovely said he and his teammates have been focused on winning and that includes the Ohio Valley Conference title and in the post-season tournament that’s only a few weeks away.
“No one thought we’d be real good. They didn’t think we would be last year. But we did pretty well. This year, everyone picked Fairland and Gallia. We came in and knew we’d be just fine,” said Lovely.
South Point accomplished the first goal by clinching at least a share of the OVC title last week. The Pointers were 15-3 going into Tuesday’s non-league game at Cabell Midland and sporting a 2-game lead in the OVC at 11-1 with just two conference games remaining.
“This year, I want to go far in the tournament and next year, too, and I think we can,” he said.
South Point head coach Travis Wise — who picked up his 100th career win against Cabell Midland earlier this season — said Lovely isn’t just a scoring machine but a leader both on and off the court.
“When he came in two years ago, we knew he could score. And he has worked his butt off up to this point,” said Wise.
“Last year, he was around 16 something (points per game) and right now he’s somewhere close to 23 a game. His work ethic is just unbelievable. He never misses an open gym, lifting. He puts in extra work and it shows. He took off this year like we needed him to.”
Lovely was aware of the shortcomings in his game and he went to work on them during the offseason.
“I worked on defense a lot and rebounding and shooting the ball off the dribble more., making tougher shots,” said Lovely. “I control my shot. I have a balance when I shoot the ball off the dribble.”
But he doesn’t plan to stop there.
“I’d like to improve my post game more. If I have a smaller guard on me, I think that would help to get a bigger guard on me. Everybody is usually like my size, 6-3,” Lovely said.
Lovely has been a clutch shooter for the Pointers, especially at the foul line where he’s shooting 77.9 percent and 31 percent from the 3-point line. Overall, he’s shooting 52.8 percent from the field.
Teams expect Lovely to get the ball in crucial situations and he likes that aspect of the game, but he doesn’t plan to force the shot.
“I want the ball in those situations. When we need a bucket, I want the ball. If I’m getting double or triple teamed, someone is going to be open and that might be the better shot,” he said.
“You’ve got to be able to score from three, you’ve got to be able to drive to the basket, pull up at mid-range. Once you’re able to do that, it’s hard for them to guard you and you’re able to go around them.”
Wise said he wants the ball in Lovely’s hands and he has a green light when the Pointers are on offense.
“What he has done for this team is he has given us that scorer, that pure scorer. He’s real good at attacking the basket and his three (point shooting) when he gets rolling is very good,” said Wise.
“All the kids accept him, he’s a great teammate, he looks to pass, and when we need him to score, he can score for us.”
And Caleb Lovely has scored for the Pointers. In fact, he’s scored 1,000 points and counting.